In support of fundraisers: The best learning comes when we are out of our comfort zones

02 September 2020
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Chairs outside a waiting room

Caryn Skinner, a member of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Learning and Development Committee, tells fundraisers made redundant or who are facing the prospect – you will pull through.

Redundancy. It's such a horrible term. It describes something that is no longer needed, is superfluous to requirements, is not relevant anymore. I was made redundant 23 years ago from my role as HR Director, and I survived and thrived. I set up a business with my colleague and we have never looked back. I know, I know, you would like to wipe the imagined smug look off my face and I wouldn't blame you. That stuff isn't useful to you now, yet it is proof that you will pull through.

If I asked you how are you doing, what would you say? You might tell me you are good; you saw it coming and had already started planning for it. Or you might say with tears in your eyes that you feel hurt, rejected and wonder why they picked you. Maybe you would pace the room angrily, telling me all the people that should have got the chop before you because they are all useless. These are strong, understandable reactions.

How did you find out? If it was a shock – think suddenly the world closing with COVID-19 – it catches us unaware. The old primaeval stuff kicks in, and we fight, we flee, we standstill. If it was evolutionary, a gradual realisation that your role may not exist in the new order, you might have had time to adjust to it, which softens the impact.

Was it as a result of a strategic restructure? You might have had full sight of the train coming down the line, or was it shrouded in mist? When that mist cleared, perhaps you saw it as a new opportunity. Not all change is threatening.

‘The waiting room can be a stressful place’

And now you are in the waiting room, which is a tough place to be. You've ridden the change curve of denial and resistance and now… nothing. You will be looking for the exploration and commitment bit of the curve, but you can't quite see it. You are in the waiting room where a door has closed, but a new one hasn't opened yet because there is so much uncertainty in the world, making it difficult to see your next step.

The waiting room can be a stressful place. It is a place of continuous disruption and instability. You feel insecure, a sense of loss, and you must break old habits. You may have tried to make your world as small as possible so that you feel in control in an alien environment. Are you dreaming of the status quo of your old job? Do you find yourself blowing out the candle that lights up the waiting room, so you don't have to explore it or are you madly searching the walls trying to find the mythical new door?

This is a difficult phase, yet it can also be one of exploration, learning and resetting. You can light up the waiting room. The best learning comes when we are out of our comfort zone. Ask for help and support from your close friends and family and your network of connections. The world of fundraising is a friendly, supportive place. Look at those LinkedIn posts from people you have worked with offering support, even if they haven't posted get in contact. Nothing is wasted. All connections are useful because you learn from them, create goodwill, which you can reciprocate at some point.

What are you missing? Intentional learning is an excellent way to keep you occupied in the waiting room. Research online learning, podcasts, groups you could join to fill gaps in your experience or knowledge. Learning from others is useful too. Is there somebody in the same position as you that you could talk to? Is your friend in an organisation or a job you are interested in? Can a member of your family help you draft an up to date CV and give you tips on interview technique?

Then one day, the door will open because you have made it happen. When it does, you will be the best version of yourself. In interviews, you will be able to dazzle the panel with the new skills, ideas and perspectives you have harvested. You will be discerning about the roles you go for because you haven't panicked, you have control over your destiny.

I wish you all the best in your exploration of your new future, and if I can help in any way, drop me a line.

Caryn Skinner
Caryn Skinner
Director of
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